NEW DELHI: Only half the Indian team turned up for practice on Tuesday evening, the eve of their match against Afghanistan. All the frontline bowlers decided to skip the session. The nets session lasted for barely an hour and half.
In contrast, Afghanistan went through two rigorous sessions on Monday and Tuesday. While the Afghans are here to go all out to make some headway in the tournament, the Indian team has adopted a conserve-and-explode approach.
Needless to mention this World Cup is a long tournament. The Indian team management, forever concerned about workload management, isn’t going to deviate from their core game plan. They can’t be faulted given that they have been hampered by frequent breakdowns for 18 months in the lead up to the World Cup. “Mostly, there will be optional training sessions throughout the tournament. The team’s main objective is to keep all the 15 players in shape for the tournament. For these players, the idea is to just get a feel of the bat and ball before the game. If they aren’t really bothered with something in their game, they are not likely to go through intense sessions,” a source close to the team management told TOI on Tuesday.
It wasn’t surprising when Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav didn’t turn up on Tuesday. They had played an exhausting match against Australia in Chennai on Sunday.
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Coming to the match, the Indian team will know they have to get a defining lead in the points table early in the tournament before looking to try players in the back end of the tournament. The pitch here at the Arun Jaitley stadium, with a fair layering of grass on a hard surface, may just be what captain Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid would have hoped for. After all, high-scoring games at this venue always seemed a fallacy before South Africa and Sri Lanka scored 750 runs in their game on
It’s about getting runs and trying to register a big win that boosts their net run rate. However, batting coach Vikram Rathour tried to play down that line of thought. “If we bat first, we look to put up as many runs as possible and if we bowl first, we’ll try and get them out as early as possible. We don’t know how tomorrow is going to be, how the wicket will play and what the situation will be. So, I don’t think it’s possible to answer that question,” Rathour said on Tuesday.
Afghanistan dare India for a spin challenge
If there was anything that could threaten India’s planned charge on Wednesday, it would be Afghanistan’s attack of unorthodox spinners led by Rashid Khan. The surface may not really be the one that would put them in pole position. But these Afghan spinners have grown in stature bowling on flat decks in T20 cricket. “We play better spinners in the net sessions. Like if you see Rashid, Nabi, Noor and Mujeeb, we play them every day. So, I think our team is far better in playing spin bowling,” Afghanistan captain Hashmatullah Shahidi emphatically announced.
He was also stern about a suggestion that his trump card Rashid is mostly ineffective in ODI cricket because the batters look to just play him out and attack the other bowlers. “Rashid is the best bowler in ODI and T20s. So whatever opposition is doing, we don’t care about that, like how they play, they want to play Rashid. For us, the important thing is how he has planned against the opposition,” Shahidi claimed.
India, on the other hand, aren’t looking to make any changes to the XI due to workload. Whatever XI they field, it will be a tactical call. There are chances they will not go with three spinners. But the team wants a settled XI to play together at the top of the tournament before rotating the players.